News & Commentary

October 12, 2020

Mackenzie Bouverat

Mackenzie Bouverat is a student at Harvard Law School.

The labor situation continues to adapt to today’s unprecedented circumstances. As increasing numbers of employers institute permanent work-from-home, workers who must continue to work in-person continue to resist forced exposure to covid-19. As Jon reported last week, healthcare worker strikes are spreading across the country, and have been joined most recently by SEIU 1021, which represents about 3,000 nurses at Alameda Health System in Alameda County. Talk of a teacher’s strike rage in Gahanna-Jefferson, Ohio; the district has just requested a restraining orders against a possible strike. Teamsters Joint Council 42, representing 4,000 Albertsons and Kroger warehouse workers and truck drivers who deliver food and supplies to Southern California grocery stores who work for Albertsons has given notice of their intention to strike over failed labor negotiations. On Saturday, Youngstown State University’s faculty union, YSU-OEA, voted to strike.

Rampant layoffs continue: Chevron announced 700 Houston layoffs; Cisco has announced considerable “restructuring“; the Philadelphia Inquirer has laid off 500 plant employees; AT&T’s WarnerMedia will lay off “thousands”; Disney Land will lay off 28,000 employees; American and United, together, will lay off 32,000. Progress on reaching a Federal economic relief package remains at a standstill.

Last Thursday, Rund reported on a NELP report which detailing OSHA’s dismal record on the resolution of complaints by workers claiming that they had been retaliated against for raising covid-19-related safety concerns: of the 1,744 complaints from the beginning of the pandemic until August 9th, she relayed, only thirty-five — or two percent — had actually been resolved. A Bloomberg Law report now sheds light on the Agency’s spontaneous enforcement of covid-19 safety regulations. From the outset of the pandemic until Oct. 1, OSHA has cited only sixty two establishments for health and safety violations, proposing penalties totaling $913,133. Slightly more than a third of that total came from coronavirus-related violations. The largest citation was for $26,988 to Genesis HealthCare Inc.’s Westfield Center, in Westfield, N.J., a skilled nursing center and senior living community. Rebecca Reindel, the AFL-CIO’s director of safety and health, has harshly criticized OSHA’s lackluster enforcement of covid-19-related safety restrictions, noting that the low likelihood of actually being fined, combined with the low dollar amounts of those fines, does not effectively deter employer non-compliance with those regulations.

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